Great holiday food and great holiday wines go hand in hand. Besides, it's almost a crime to slave over a hot stove for hours and not have a delicious wine to complement the meal. However, we realize that this is much easier said than done. We know the holiday season can be stressful and the last thing you want to think about is what kind of wine should grace the table. So, we've compiled a list of our top ten holiday wines to make your life a little bit easier - or, at the very least to make your trip to the local wine shop a little less intimidating. All the wines on the list are under $40 and they each represent a terrific value at their respective price points. The holidays are just the right excuse to experiment with interesting wines and we think this list is an excellent place to start.
1.E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2000 Rhone, France $9.95
This is a fabulous wine to have on hand for those occasions when you want a red wine with ripe fruit flavors and an earthy quality. It is well-balanced with enough body and structure to handle this leg of lamb. Made from one of the top producers in the Rhone Valley, this wine is a crowd-pleaser and a must-have for any holiday meal.
Recipe Pairing: Mark Peel's The Best Leg of Lamb
2.Paringa Shiraz 2001 Australia $10.95
It doesn't get much bigger and bolder than this Australian Shiraz for under $15. It has the luscious fruit, the smoked meatiness, and the exotic spice to rival many wines costing twice as much. Shiraz is a good choice for full-flavored meats such as beef and dark game. This dish by Chef Joachim Splichal is overflowing with robust flavors and needs a big and bold wine with equally powerful flavors. Syrah is a grape that is often described as peppery both on the nose and the palate. The black pepper sauce will accentuate these characteristics and unite the entire meal.
Recipe Pairing: Joachim Splichal's Venison Medallions with Persimmons And Celery Root Mousse with Black Pepper Sauce
3.Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiandene NV Veneto, Italy $14.59
A list of holiday wines wouldn't be complete without a sparkling wine. This crisp and lively Prosecco has an enticing floral aroma with distinct hints of citrus and apricot. It's fruity and refreshing and serves as a delightful aperitif. Sparkling wine is also an especially good match for any type of fried food. The effervescent nature wakes up your palate and acts as a great foil for deep-fried delights.
Recipe Pairing: Emeril Lagasse's Fried Oysters with Tomato Corn Sauce
4.Bodegas Castano Solanera 2000 Yecla, Spain $14.95
This mostly Mourvedre heavyweight has all the necessary elements to complement the heartiest of holiday meals. There is a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in this wine that lends some structure and a menthol note on the finish that echoes the mint in this dish.
Recipe Pairing: Mario Batali's Grilled Lamb Chops "Scottaditti" with Pom Pom Mushrooms, Garlic Confit and Mint
5.Domaine Bourillon Dorleans 'La Coulee d'Argent' Vouvray Sec 2001 Loire, France $14.99
Clean, crisp and charming - These three words sum up the merits of this outstanding white wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes. If you want a dry, light-bodied white wine to accompany a plate of nuts and olives or a delicate seafood dish, you needn't look any further. This heavenly wine has a fresh, flowery aroma with definite lavender nuances and flavors of green apples and minerals.
Recipe Pairing: Jean-Georges Vongrichten's Dill-Stuffed Shrimp with Baked Lemon
6.Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio 2001 Venezia, Italy $17.99
This is a Pinot Grigio like no other. It's full-bodied, rich and complex. Let it sit in the glass for a few minutes and aromas of peaches and oranges will slowly emerge. The peach and orange aromas are confirmed on the palate with a touch of nuttiness and a gorgeous caramel finish. This is a stunning wine for richer seafood dishes or poultry.
Recipe Pairing: Bradley Ogden's Butter Basted Roast Turkey
7.BV Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 Napa Valley, California $18.99
This California Cabernet is powerful and concentrated with flavors of black cherries, blackberries and a touch of mint. This full-bodied wine has ripe tannins and a long, elegant finish. The oak lends some vanilla spice without being too overpowering. It's a fantastic choice to pair with dark game, beef, lamb and cheeses.
Recipe Pairing: Darina Allen's Michaelmas Goose with Traditional Potato & Apple Stuffing
8.Catena Malbec 2000 Mendoza, Argentina $22.00
It's exciting just thinking about this wine. It's full-bodied with ripe fruit aromas and flavors of dark berries, sweet vanilla, and spice. The texture is velvety smooth and the flavors remain in your mouth minutes after you swallow. It's a big wine that can handle the most flavorful of holiday recipes. Try it with slow-cooked meats or beef tenderloin.
Recipe Pairing: Marcus Samuelsson's Beef Rydberg
9.Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2001 Marlborough, New Zealand $24.95
This wine will immediately blow you over with its intense aroma of passion fruit, citrus and mango. The complex flavors range from preserved lemons on the first sip to peaches and guavas as it opens up. The texture is rich and luxurious and the finish is long and satisfying - a winning match for this complex recipe.
Recipe Pairing: Todd English's Oven Roasted Halibut with Portobello Crust, Whipped Carrots and Asparagus Crab Salad
10.Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 1999 Waipara, New Zealand $38.00
This New Zealand Pinot Noir is fun and exciting. It may seem strange to describe a wine in this way, but there are so many flavors in this wine that you could literally turn off the television and uncork this bottle as a form of entertainment. The show begins with the spicy animal aroma with hints of crushed raspberries and fresh dill. Take a sip and the flavors of cherries, earth, cinnamon, and cedar mix and mingle on the palate. This wine has a kick on the finish and will complement full-flavored poultry, meat and game dishes.
Recipe Pairing: David Kinch's Rare Breast of Duck Lacquered with Spiced Honey